Going to Barcelona is being a part of a young, yet complete, culture. The energy is bubbling, constant and cool. The beaches are beautiful well into late October. The works of Picasso and the mosaics of Gaudi are sprinkled all over shopping districts, historic centers and in between magical fountains. The paella and the Mediterranean sandwiches are flavorful and a travel within itself for the tongue. The stories of the city are historic yet still being written, with tensions of people with two different flags.
There isn’t a place where I have felt quite so surrounded by culture like this. One that seems to be created by such young energy; an energy captured by Barcelona artist, Albert Llobet Portell.
Albert was born in a city just about two hours north of Barcelona. He was surrounded by art, and as a student would visit many museums. Being an artist was an easy choice. He studied art and design, in many different locations. From London to Barcelona, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) he was exposed to a variety of cultures and styles, but also given the chance to find his own.
“In that moment I discovered the world,” said Albert on choosing to study abroad at RISD, and come to America. RISD is one of the top art and design universities in the world. The art classes are intense but worthwhile, and being surrounded by fellow art lovers is a culture in itself. Albert had the choice to be a foreign exchange student in Germany or Norway, but America created a sense of wanderlust for him, and so he chose RISD. “America was always like, ‘I want to be there. I want to study there,’” Albert said. “Everything is just more free.” Land of the free, home of the brave, right? Our culture comes with this openness to expression that creatives fall in love with. A world where they are free to connect with the people, create with the people, and be passionate with the people is important in the world of art.
“People [Americans] are very open. They emphasize a lot. Everything is huge. Everything has to have show. Everything has to have marketing on it. Every time you do something you are very passionate. I’m more comfortable there than in northern Europe.” Compared to America, Barcelona’s art industry is very different. Art is an investment, and finding a market can be hard if you are not famous.
“If you buy a painting or sculpture here, you have to go a thousand times to see it. In America, things are quick. A person goes in a gallery. ‘Oh I love it. I want it.’” In America, it is less about who painted it and more about the work itself. Does it connect with you? Do you see it in your home? Does it inspire you? Albert describes his style as abstract impressionism. At age 28, he found this style quite early. He creates textures and uses color in a unique way that people are able to recognize time and time again. Smearing blue paints with a piece of cardboard, or scratching the canvas with blacks and whites.
“The people know if it is mine or not. Even when I am evolving my artwork, people still recognize my work.” He is currently working on many projects. One in particular focuses on typography. Another was a past exhibition featured work he did on the Catalan and Spanish conflict within Barcelona.
“My projects for that exhibition were very different in style,” Albert said. He created nine pieces to express his opinion on the Catalan independence movement. He tried to explain his point of view through a sculpture of a donkey, the symbol for Catalonia because of their hardworking demeanor. The result was an exhibition that brought together his hobbies of politics and art. However, this exhibition was far different from what Albert usually creates. His pieces are normally what he calls “happenings”. He lets the public participate in his art, in hopes of creating connections between people with a painting.
“I want to break this separation between the people and the art piece,” he said. The phrase “don’t touch” just doesn’t apply in this case. He paints huge paintings, about seven meters by two meters long. He leaves the painting in a public place with an empty frame. The people find the piece of the painting they like most using the frame, and then cut it out. “I want to break this separation between the people and the art piece.” Photo Credit: Carmen Alicia ART Another “happening” he created was with puzzle pieces. People would buy individual pieces for themselves, and then could search online to see who else has a piece. Together, the pieces made a full painting. “I am always trying to create that kind of situation with the people.” Albert consistently uses acrylic on canvas for his work. He creates layers with the paint, so the drying process becomes crucial. He mentioned that during his time in London, painting was very difficult because of the wet and cloudy weather. What is truly unique about his artistic process, however, is what he uses to paint. Most would pick up a brush. Albert never does.
“I never paint with a brush. I use a lot of tools like cardboard or other tools you use for construction…I like to investigate with texture and color.” By not using a brush, Albert is able to achieve all different textures and really evolve his work, and when you look at his work it shows. He has even used his hand to scratch his paintings.
“A brush will give you the same result as someone else.”
Albert talked of the evolution of his work, and how past mistakes create another step into his future artwork. “When you do a painting, sometimes you do something wrong. But sometimes it just becomes a new thing you can use in your next project,” he said. “I’m doing another project that is a mistake of the last paintings.” He has that sense of creativity that we don’t always allow ourselves the time to find.
“You need time to be creative. It means you have to have time to not do anything.”Our schedules are demanding, and Albert responded that the everyday person could incorporate art into their life by making time for creativity. “It’s very useful to disconnect…If you are in a lot of stress and have a lot of things to do, you never have time to be creative.”
VIP show November 16 (by invitation only). Please contact us at [email protected] com for details.